Leeds United’s time in the Championship is over and they’ll be hoping they have seen the back of the competition for the foreseeable future.
Now it’s time to prepare for a first top-flight campaign in 16 years and to ensure their survival amongst the big dogs, recruitment must be spot on this summer.
The Yorkshire giants can’t follow the plights of Fulham, Norwich City and very nearly Aston Villa in recent seasons. An instant return would be disastrous.
One of the key areas that Marcelo Bielsa could be looking to improve is in attacking midfield – since the restart, the league winners have seemed ever so reliant on Pablo Hernandez and his mercurial talents.
The 35-year-old veteran has often come off the bench to swing matches in Leeds’ favour. A goal and assist versus Stoke City, the winner against Swansea and in recent starts, he’s provided two assists and another strike.
However, given his age, it’s wise to start planning ahead for when he may eventually bow out.
A potential replacement could be seen in the Canaries’ Emi Buendia, who the club have enquired about in recent weeks. But he could cost multi-millions with 90min suggesting a fee of around £25m for his services.
Though maybe United already have the perfect understudy and eventual heir to Hernandez’s throne already at the club. Recent performances certainly allude to that being the case.
Jamie Shackleton has been deployed in a similar role during the final two games of the season and he’s managed to score twice whilst recording three tackles, four shots and no worse than a 83.3% passing accuracy. In fact, during the Derby game, the 20-year-old enjoyed an impressive 93.1%, via WhoScored.
These are key attributes that the Spanish wizard possesses himself and even when you delve into Bielsa’s praise of the young maestro, you get the feeling that he could one day be Hernandez’s successor.
“He can attack by surprise, he defends well and when he moves he has explosive movements. With these kind of movements, he can surprise his opponent and he looks for space at the right time”